By LOUIS FLORES
Councilmember Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was arrested Tuesday morning on a grand jury indictment secured by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York) on five counts of filing false disclosure statements.
A staff member at the Jamaica District Office for Councilmember Wills would not comment on the arrest and indictment and, instead, deferred comment to Councilmember Wills' attorney.*
"Councilman Wills has entered plea of not guilty and is looking forward to the vindication that will come when the case is tried in a public courtroom before a jury of his peers, not in a secret proceeding controlled by Mr. Schneiderman," said attorney Steve Zissou in a statement, adding, "In the meantime, as he has done since he was first elected in 2010, he will continue to work tirelessly to help the people in his community live better and fuller lives."*
An unfiled and unsigned copy of the indictment was posted online by the news Web site Capital New York and was reposted onto Scribd by Progress Queens.
Councilmember Wills' arrest and indictment Tuesday morning follow action that Attorney General Schneiderman took to investigate allegations of election fraud by WNY Progressive Caucus, a campaign committee controlled by the powerful lobbyist, G. Steven Pigeon.
Attorney General Schneiderman's recent spree of two corruption cases follows years of criticisms that the the state's top prosecutor has taken little action to confront the crisis of political corruption that has been eroding public trust in municipal and state governments.
Prior to Tuesday's indictment and arrest, Councilmember Wills was arrested in 2014 on charges of misusing state taxpayer monies, also by Attorney General Schneiderman's office. However, Attorney General Schneiderman was silent as the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) reportedly obstructed the corruption-fighting work of the Moreland Commission.
On the day of Councilmember Wills' arrest in 2014, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) told The New York Daily News that, "Days like these are never good days for the institution."
Following Councilmember Wills' arrest, Speaker Mark Viverito and the leader of the Queens delegation, Councilmember Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), decided how to distribute Councilmember Wills' share of the City Council discretionary funding. Discretionary funding on both the municipal and state levels have long been a source of corruption investigations.
City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito is herself separately under investigation.
* Updated to reflect a statement received from Councilmember Wills' attorney.